The end of classical apologetics?

Discussion in 'Apologetical Methods' started by jwright82, Feb 26, 2012.

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  1. jwright82

    jwright82 Puritan Board Graduate

    This will be a very controversial thread but I think it is a question worth asking. If classical apologetics is philosophically linked to modernism/enlightenment concepts and those movements are dead than is classical apologetics on the way out to? If you think about it like this, if modernism/enlightenment is sinking like the Titanic and CA is inseprable from its philosophical assumptions than is it also sinking away?
  2. Philip

    Philip Puritan Board Graduate

    CA predates modernism by a good while, so no. Both Presuppositional and Classical apologetics have their roots in the medieval debates between the Franciscans and the Dominicans.
  3. jwright82

    jwright82 Puritan Board Graduate

    I would disagree, if you look at common evangelical apologetics you will see them hitching our cart to the enlightment. Most western thinking has been autonomous in some way, I think that CA rests on the same foundation.
  4. J. Dean

    J. Dean Puritan Board Junior

    Just because it happened to come about at the time of the Enlightenment does not mean it was necessarily a bad thing.
  5. Philip

    Philip Puritan Board Graduate

    Historically, though, Thomas Aquinas is considered the thinker par excellence for CA.
  6. jwright82

    jwright82 Puritan Board Graduate

    True but if the enlightenment was a bad thing than ergo it is a bad thing. The problem is that it rests on autonomous foundations, the same foundations as the enlightenment.

    ---------- Post added at 03:39 PM ---------- Previous post was at 03:38 PM ----------

    Yes and it is recognized that the roots of the enlightenment go back further than the 1700's.
  7. Philip

    Philip Puritan Board Graduate

    The Enlightenment is considered to have begun in the 18th Century as an outgrowth of the Age of Reason. Yes, the roots go back, but that's a case of the genetic fallacy: the Enlightenment was bad, therefore all reasoning before it is suspect. Van Tillians like to blame Thomas for the Enlightenment when in reality he's operating under the same Anselmian framework as Calvin, Luther, and (honestly) Van Til.

    I'm not particularly concerned with defending all uses of CA, merely the proper use.
  8. ChristianTrader

    ChristianTrader Puritan Board Graduate

    I think we need to have someone clearly lay out what they mean by classical apologetics, before we can definitively say that it is good or bad, right or wrong.


    ---------- Post added at 05:04 PM ---------- Previous post was at 05:02 PM ----------

    A number of Roman Catholics would say that evangelicals attempt to autonomously interpret Scripture and therefore end up in a lot of trouble. One could also make the argument that without the Enlightenment there would not have been a Reformation.
  9. Philip

    Philip Puritan Board Graduate

    You're thinking the Renaissance (15th-16th century) not the Enlightenment (18th century)
  10. jwithnell

    jwithnell Moderator Staff Member

    I would contend that the theologians/philosophers of the medieval period were engaging in a synthesis of a Christian perspective (changing over time with the error of the Roman church) and the Greek world view so carefully preserved by the church. (As an example, challengers to the earth-centric universe were running into Aristotelian science when disputed by the church.) The full effect of this synthesis came into bud with the renaissance and full flower with the enlightenment (and, arguably, with the classical apologetic.)
  11. ChristianTrader

    ChristianTrader Puritan Board Graduate

    Thanks for the correction.
  12. Philip

    Philip Puritan Board Graduate

    James, in answer to your original question, what is under attack right now is modernism, not the medieval synthesis that produced both presuppositional and classical approaches to apologetics. The roots of both approaches are found in thinkers like Augustine, Anselm, and even Thomas Aquinas. Classical apologetics is no more a product of the Enlightenment than Presuppositionalism is a product of Post-Kantianism.
  13. MW

    MW Puritanboard Amanuensis

    Classical apologetics does not appear to be effective even for modernists. Once presuppositions are brought into the arena evidence is not going to function in a simplistic way. And I doubt we are beyond modernism yet. When a sick person goes to the doctor he is still only interested in what is wrong with him and how he can get better. He couldn't care less about the nature of the instruments being used to check his signs.
  14. jwright82

    jwright82 Puritan Board Graduate

    I would agree. Except that I don't like to label Van Til a Presuppositionalist because his dinstinctives in mind come from Reformed Theology and not Post-Kantianism, but he did use that to his own ends. I never said it was a product of the E/M worldview but that is has for better or worse hitched its cart to that horse. I mean when you have people in CA camp who are defending certian theories autonomous theories of truth, among other autonomous philosophical ideas, and resting the truth of God on that than that is a bad thing in opinion.

    Some have argued that Post-modernism is just an advanced stage of Modernism. I don't exactly know how accurate that is but there is some truth to it.
  15. Philip

    Philip Puritan Board Graduate

    As I said, I'm not defending this improper use and application of CA. I'm maintaining that this use is not the only one and that there is a proper context and use for it.

    I would also maintain that Post-modernism is dead and that we are now in the age of pluralism.
  16. Loopie

    Loopie Puritan Board Freshman

    Wasn't pluralism (at least in the sense of moral/religious pluralism) the norm during the time of the Roman Empire in the first and second centuries AD? I mean, Roman pagans called Christians 'atheists' because Christians would not acknowledge the existence of any other gods (and they wouldn't acknowledge the emperor as deity either). There is nothing new under the sun, and the terms post-modernism or pluralism are just as reflective of man's fallen nature as other terms were used to describe the same concept back in the day.
  17. Theogenes

    Theogenes Puritan Board Junior

    Hume, Kant and Gordon Clark have all shown that the classical arguments for God's existence to be fallacious and therefore should be abandoned.
  18. jwright82

    jwright82 Puritan Board Graduate

    Yeah I am open to the idea in theory of a workable CA, I think in practice it will end up being essentially VanTillian, but I have yet to see it.

    Yeah I agree, I believe that I started a thread on the whole post-postmodernist idea. I will look for it here and maybe it can help us here.

    Yeah I think that you are right in essence. Although I think their (the Postmodernists) arguments are different and far more complex than ancient Roman thinkers, but you are right that they reach the same conclusions.

    I would agree with you but I do think that they can be "reconstructed" along VanTillian lines. I also think that a person can indentify with CA and be just fine. If that works apologetically speaking for you than keep it up. If we set aside, not throw out, absolute logical proof for our arguments and adopt a more persuasive approach than I can see a place for CA in our apologetical arsenal.
  19. Philip

    Philip Puritan Board Graduate

    Honestly, they haven't. I've looked at their critiques and all of them miss the point.

    I wouldn't go that far, simply because I don't think Van Tillianism is going to last much longer as a system. I think we'll be seeing more study of Van Til as a Christian philosopher and great use made of his work, but I think Plantinga's work on epistemology and the work of other reformed epistemologists are providing more of a model. The larger movement of reformed epistemology (or the "Aquinas/Calvin" model of belief) will most likely take over where Van Tillianism left off.
  20. MW

    MW Puritanboard Amanuensis

    All they have proven is that the arguments for human rationality are fallacious and should be abandoned. In so doing they have also disproven their right to be regarded as rational.
  21. SolaSaint

    SolaSaint Puritan Board Sophomore

    I don't know about all the academics on classical apologetics, but that is how I defend and advocate the faith with others. I feel it is the best method of apologetics. If it is dead, it hasn't made a difference in my conversations. lol-- By the way R C Sproul doesn't seem to know either.
  22. jwright82

    jwright82 Puritan Board Graduate

    I see a place for Plantinga's work to suppliment Van Til's but since two of the best Reformed seminaries are VanTillian than I don't see it being eclipsed. Plus if one feels that Van Til's work is the logical conclusion of Reformed theology than that probably will stay the same to.
    Last edited: Mar 2, 2012
  23. Philip

    Philip Puritan Board Graduate

    I would say that Van Til is one of several possible outworkings of Reformed theology---it is not a necessary conclusion of it any more than Bahnsen's theonomy is a necessary conclusion of Van Tillianism.
  24. jwright82

    jwright82 Puritan Board Graduate

    Just out of curiousity why is Van Til going to be eclipsed anyway?
  25. Peccavi

    Peccavi Puritan Board Freshman

    I am not entirely sure I am comfortable with the implication that modernism is dead. While the movement of modernism has had its influence substantially reduced by the rising popularity of post- modern thinking, I am certainly not willing to concede that modernism is on the way out as such. I mean to say, militant atheism is alive and well (modernism epitomized)
  26. Philip

    Philip Puritan Board Graduate

    As the two aforementioned seminaries cease to dominate the reformed world and as Reformed epistemology broadens.
  27. jwright82

    jwright82 Puritan Board Graduate

    Well you can imagine that I hope you are wrong.

    ---------- Post added at 09:53 AM ---------- Previous post was at 09:45 AM ----------

    Your'e right about militant atheism being modernism epitomized. It does seem that science is becoming a new mode of modernism but this may also be the rise of something called by some "transmodernism". I read a paper in a book from a decidedly CA viewpoint praising transmodernism as being more favorable to religion, and that was suppossed to be a good thing.
  28. Philip

    Philip Puritan Board Graduate

    I'd say that Dawkins et al are actually just the death throes of scientism and modernism.
  29. Loopie

    Loopie Puritan Board Freshman

    I am not sure about death throes, they seem to be growing in popularity (Hitchens, Loftus, included).
  30. Alan D. Strange

    Alan D. Strange Puritan Board Senior

    It would be nice if Dawkins's approach were it in its death throes, but I seriously doubt that scientism is and there's little evidence to support that. Most mainstream scientists are naturalistic and scientistic and nothing that I know suggests a change in that any time soon.

    As for Plantinga replacing Van Til, I don't think so, because their projects are not the same. Van Til is an apologist who uses and also occasionally does philosophy. Plantinga is a philosopher who also practices a mild form of apologetics sometimes. Those who follow Plantingna and do apologetics do it so mildly as scarcely to be recognized as such. Frame is, I believe, correct in his analysis of this in Cowen's Five Views of Apologetics. Reformed epistemologists who do apologetics make the weakest sort of claim, even compared to classicalists, evidentialists, cumulative casers, etc.

    Plantinga has sought to argue the warrant of faith so as to give Christianity a place at the table with all other worldviews. Van Til has argued that worldviews other than Christianity are internally inconsistent and incoherent and necessarily reduce to nonsense. Only the Christian worldview furnishes the necessary preconditions for intelligibility and thus, properly, not only deserves a place at the table but is the only one that does. This sounds, and is, audacious (and I realize that you, P.F., don't buy it), but it's not the audacity of the unbeliever rejecting God and His Word; rather it is the conviction and assurance of God's child humbly bowing before Him and His revelation, without which we cannot make sense of the world and with which we can joyfully serve our God and king.

    Formally speaking, Van Til is about much more than philosophy as a discipline. He's about the theological project that sees God's revelation (general and special) as all-embracing and all-encompassing, forming the necessary foundation for all knowledge, confessing not only the soteric Lordship of Christ but also the epistemic Lordship of Christ. Typically, Plantinginians are quite wary and contemptous of all this and don't regard it as philosophy at all. Scott Oliphint's dissertation from WTS engages Plantinga's approach in light of Van Til's project. I think that it is quite good, as well as his engagement of Plantinga's attempted theodicy in Reasons for Faith.

    Here's a little something I wrote, reviewing John Stackhouse's Humble Apologetics, which comes from the perspective of Plantinga and which , I think, quite misses the point and presents an apologetic laden with uncertainty and scepticism: These are all the reviews from this issue. Look under Stackhouse (which mistakenly, in this pdf, follows Stewart).

    One last point: I am reading Plantinga's Where the Conflict Really Lies : Science, Religion, and Naturalism--as usual, brilliant in so many ways, and first-rate in deconstructing naturalism (or better showing how it deconstructs itself). But at what price? Total capitulation (though I realize it's not necessary, but it's what Plantinga does) to the substance of what the naturalist comes up with while rejecting naturalism. Maybe the book should be titled: What the price really is--to be thought respectable by the Academy.

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